Archive for January, 2011

Russian Football (part 2)

January 17, 2011

Tales from the Nuclear Age

Copyright © 2011 by Charles Glassmire


 Jan. 17, 2011

 Russian  Football (part 2)

          Russian radars were tracking an unknown missile launch off the Norwegian coast on the 25th of January 1995. Due to a possible Electromagnetic Pulse Attack (EMP) from a single warhead, the Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces were brought to a very high alert status, preparing for a counter-launch against the “enemy” nation. A possible US Submarine missile launch off the Norwegian coast was suspected, and the Russian defense began the countdown to counter-launch on warning (LOW). The three football suitcases (Chegets) received the war alert and Premier Yeltsin, for the first time in history, opened his suitcase and began actual preparations for nuclear war.

          The Kazbek electronic network was activated by the alert, began the 10 minute countdown, and joined the three Chegets together in emergency teleconference. Defense Minister Pavel Grachev and chief of the General Staff Mikhail Kolesnikov,  along with Yeltsin, began monitoring the path of this unknown missile. Due to the almost vertical ascent phase of the launch, their systems were unable to determine the actual ground track of the object. As the minutes ticked away, the missile reached altitude and rotated onto a northerly course, which could take it over the pole towards Moscow. Now the trio was considering whether to order the use of nuclear weapons against America. Any one of the three had the power to order a nuclear launch, without permission from any of the others.

          Early that same morning, a team of Norwegian and American scientists were preparing to launch an interesting  scientific experiment. They were based on the Norwegian island of andoya, which contained a sounding rocket  range off the northwest coast of Norway. Mounted onto a four stage Black Brant XII rocket, scientific equipment was in place to monitor the Aurora Borealis and accompanying atmospheric conditions. The rocket was to pass over Svalbard on a northbound trajectory toward the pole, and eventually reach an altitude of 903 miles before plunging into the sea.

Scientific Launch Trajectory

          In preparation for the experiment, the scientific team had published notice of the launch times, day, date and coordinates in an international notification system to all aircraft, known as Notices to Airmen (NOTAMS). These notices are scrupulously examined by all aircraft navigators on a daily basis. It would be most unfortunate for an aircraft to fly over a sounding rocket launch pad at the moment of blast off. In addition, the Norwegian Diplomatic Corps had sent launch notices to some thirty countries, alerting them all to the time and location of the test. This notification specifically included the Russian government. (It was later determined this notification was never passed on to the Russian radar observers.)

          As the rocket climbed for altitude, the Russian radar range at Olendgorsk detected the launch in its boost phase. Trajectory was vertical and unclear, and the launch was marked as “unknown”. To the radar observers, the missile speed and flight pattern seemed similar to a submarine-launched Trident Ballistic Missile. A missile alert was forwarded up the chain of command to the general in charge of the Strategic Nuclear Forces (SNF).  As the object reached peak altitude, 2nd and then 3rd stages dropped away, and could be interpreted as Multiple Re-entry Vehicles (MIRVs) approaching impact. As the clock ticked on, Yeltsin began scanning the “nuclear Keys” from the Cheget, and decided the Russian population should not be notified. A direct call was made to U.S. President Clinton. However Russian submarine commanders were ordered to prepare missiles for launch.

          Major Maksim Sjingarkin retired from the Strategic Nuclear Forces in 2000. He was later interviewed on Norwegian Television Channel TV2, and, being present in the room at the time, gives some insight as to what happened next. He stated the world came very close to nuclear war at that moment, and noted one Russian scenario for nuclear war has a nuclear strike originating around Norway from a submarine. He says:

          “Yeltsin had opened the briefcase, the keys were put in place, and … at the same time missiles were prepared to launch… Yeltsin literally sat there with his finger on the trigger for awhile, considering whether to launch…”

          Sjingarkin said his fellow officers hesitated to ready the Russian missiles while the Norwegian rocket was still in flight and had not impacted the Homeland. When ordered to prepare the missiles they faced such a serious moralistic dilemma that they were simply unable to follow orders.

          Then, at about eight minutes into the countdown, the triumvirate decided the incident was not a threat, and the entire system alert status was de-escalated downward some two minutes before the launch deadline! The rocket plunged into the ocean near Spitsbergen as planned, after a 24 minute flight.

          Bruce Blair, western expert on Russian war systems was recently asked about this incident. He observed:

“…What is generally true about the Russian situation is that their early warning and command systems have fallen on hard times, and they are deteriorating in physical respects. There are holes in the radar and satellite constellations [due to loss of the peripheral buffer nations around the Soviet Union – ed]. Russia has almost no ability to monitor the oceans from space now, so they rely heavily on ground radars, and the ground radars are not being maintained properly. The crews that operate them are not as proficient as they once were; their morale is not as high. In every sense of the word, the Russian early warning and command system is suffering. And that’s a trend that is almost certain to produce more false alarms in the future…”

(to be continued …)

Russian Football

January 1, 2011

Tales from the Nuclear Age

Copyright © Charles Glassmire 2010


  Jan. 1, 2011

 Russian  Football

          On January 25th, 1995, Russian long range radars detected a missile launch from somewhere over Norway or perhaps at sea off the Norwegian coast. As the object increased in altitude, its direction could not be accurately determined, but the possibility of a US Submarine launched ballistic missile off the Norwegian coast fostered an alert of the entire Russian military and political structure. The Russian system was very vulnerable to an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attack, which could be launched with a single missile.

          This was a very real alarm for a nation suspecting the American Devils of continually inventing new and more frightening ways to improve their missile systems. War theorists have shown that the first salvo in a massive nuclear war would

Russian Football Handoff to Putin

likely be from a single missile. This missile would climb to a great height over the enemy country before it detonates, probably at an altitude in excess of 40 miles. There will be no other signs of enemy offensive activity, just a lone device heading for altitude. Could it be an accident? Could it be a test gone awry? Could it be a mid-level Military Officer gone mad? A really clever enemy might even follow this launch with an emergency communication to the opposite president, proclaiming an accidental launch and asking no retaliation.

          This nuclear warhead will be optimized to release what is now known as an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) upon detonation. This pulse will spread at the speed of light across the enemy lands and induce powerful electronic currents into all electrical circuitry which is not shielded from its effect. Unprotected Radio Broadcast stations will be put off the air. Military command communications will be destroyed (is our military installing metal shielding on its communications to prevent such an occurrence?). Orbiting satellites within range of the pulse will be destroyed – no more Geographic Positioning Systems (GPS) – no more missile submarines locating their positions at sea for accurate counter launch – no military alert commands sent around the globe via satellite – no emergency broadcasting to the public – no fighter aircraft communication while pursuing enemy bombers (parked on the tarmac – the fighters are mostly old systems using VHF and UHF radio frequencies) – No more Internet (semiconductor-based systems are especially vulnerable to EMP) – Does your furnace have an electrical start up circuit? – no unshielded personal computers, let alone big main frames for insurance records, banking deposits, stock market etc.

          No – the situation is NOT hopeless. In a time of rising tensions, store your PC and emergency radio in a metal box with a tight lid. Even a tight fitting metal breadbox could work. We are told that the civilian Emergency Broadcast System is also being upgraded and shielded.

          So the Russian leaders and General Staff were alarmed, with perhaps understandable cause, watching an unknown missile in boost phase, rise toward the stratosphere, direction unknown.

          The game of Football is played differently across the seas. The Russian hierarchy has not one, but three footballs in play. They are suitcases, known by the code name Cheget – after Mount Cheget.  Three persons are accompanied 24 hours per day by a football-carrying aide (called “operators” in their very Soviet-style jargon). The three officials are the Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the military, the (military) Minister of Defense, and the Chief of the General Staff. This designation of three still follows the system originally setup in the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War in the early 1980’s during the reign of Yuri Andropov. This was a time when the military dominated decisions about nuclear war. The suitcases were first deployed in 1985 when Premier Mikhail Gorbachev took office in March of that year.

          Any of the three officials can individually order a nuclear attack without any other permission. There is no system of checks and balances. All three Chegets are linked by the Russian Command and Control System known as Kazbek – (after Mount Kazbek of course.) This system embraces all the military units and command forces which have control of nuclear weapons in the Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces. There seems to be no actual launch button in the Soviet designed Chegets. Rather, they appear to be a kind of telecommunications terminal designed to keep the three commanders in emergency contact with each other.

          The Russian football game still operates under a philosophy of Launch On Warning (LOW). The system is setup to determine validity of an enemy attack within a time frame of ten minutes – before any incoming nuclear attack has impacted. If the determination is made that the enemy has launched, any of the three designate Cheget- holders is authorized to issue a launch command, presumably against the United States. This Strike Order will then be forwarded by the military to the appropriate units. The system also allows any one of the three to individually contact launch crews and to order individual missile launches, submarine salvos, bomber attacks etc. Tests have verified that a Russian submarine, while secured at dockside, has actually launched its own individual missiles upon command via the Kazbek system.

          Russian radar operators were unable to determine the exact track of the “Norwegian” missile launch. They issued an immediate alert of an unidentified missile, destination unknown. The Russian Duty General Officer received the alert on his special terminal code named Krokus.  He then forwarded the alert to high level command. The Kazbek system in turn forwarded alerts to each of the three Chegets, Premier Yeltsin, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev and also to chief of the General Staff, Mikhail Kolesnikov. Alerts were sent to the Russian forces elevating them to very high alert status as the system began a nuclear countdown. For the first time in history, Premier Yeltsin opened his football and began the process …

 (to be continued …)